Glasgow to Campbeltown by bus and some cool places along the way.
Scottish Citylink let me loose on their Glasgow to Campbeltown bus route with a 5 Day Explorer Pass. My adventure involved a cute tourist-town, an unexpected village visit, and two new islands. Read on for my top stops along the journey, and my recommended things to do in Campbeltown.
Planning a trip on public transport is like piecing together a puzzle. I can often be found in the depths of the worldwide web, contentedly flicking between timetables and booking engines, stopping only to lift my cuppa or become momentarily distracted by social media. I’ve become something of a wizard at trip planning, and I love seeing the fruits of my labour typed up into my final itinerary document.
Now, there are wee corners of Scotland’s map which are evidently beyond the reach of our public transport network, and I previously thought that Campeltown was one of them. Tucked into the south-east of the Kintyre Peninsula – which with a little geological shimmying, could easily have been an island – I had imagined the route would be complicated and convoluted to say the least. I was wrong.
Citylink, in partnership with West Coast Motors, offer a direct service from Glasgow to Campbeltown, which takes just over four hours. The relaxing journey transports you along the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, into the heart of Argyll, and down the Kintyre Coast. It’s often said that “West is Best” and I don’t have an opposing argument.
While the end goal on the route is of course Campbeltown, there is ample opportunity to break up the journey and extend your adventure. Some stops are just too good to pass by, especially when there are ferry links to the islands involved. Here are my top suggestions.
Top Stops on the Glasgow to Campbeltown bus route.
- Loch Lomond – Loch Lomond is the largest body of freshwater in the UK, and the Campbeltown route trails its western shores. In less than an hour from Glasgow, the loch can be yours to see and explore with stops at Luss, Inverbeg and Tarbet.
- Inveraray – the bus stops for a blissful wee ten-minute break in Inveraray, allowing for a good old stretch of the legs and a swoon over Loch Fyne. Inveraray is totally charming, with lots to see and do for such a small town. For that reason, I decided to spend a night there on my trip. You can read about it here.
- Islay – whisky lovers and island enthusiasts should disembark at Kennacraig Ferry Terminal for the crossing to Port Ellen or Port Askaig on Islay. Early birds will easily be able to catch the 10.00 ferry, and be on the island by lunchtime. Numerous distilleries, cute towns, and coastal stretches await.
- Gigha – the Isle of Gigha is even more accessible than Islay, taking just 20 minutes on the ferry from Tayinloan. My night on the island involved a famous restaurant, a gorgeous glamping yurt, and two bonnie beaches. Read the full post here.
Things to do in Campbeltown.
Campbeltown Loch is the centrepiece of this wee settlement, which has been making a gradual comeback on Scotland’s map, after a decline in the town’s shipbuilding and whisky industry. Today, the town is still known for its single malt production, and the world-famous golf course at Machrihanish. During my two-night stay in Campbeltown, I discovered a culinary gem, a historic cinema, a wee village and a new island. Here is some inspiration for a trip to Campbeltown.
1. Springbank Distillery.
Campbeltown was once the thriving Whisky Capital of Scotland, with over thirty distilleries. Impressive! Only three distilleries remain, however the town’s reputation for fine whisky-production withstands, as I learned at Springbank Distillery. The distillery has been going strong since it was established in 1828 and is still a traditional, family-run operation.
From start to finish, the whole whisky-making process is done on site – which is quite rare these days – and the distillery looks and feels like a proper working operation, rather than a fancy visitor attraction. Our brilliant guide Andrew showed us the old-school methods, and gave an interesting insight into the small-scale production. The tour was a perfect way to spend a very rainy first day in Campbeltown.
- Distillery tours run Monday to Friday at 10am, 11:30am, 1:30pm and 3pm and Saturdays at 10am & 2pm
- The tour costs £7 and includes a wee dram at the end and a miniature to take home.
- For more info visit the Springbank Distillery website
2. Campbeltown Picture House.
A visit to the cinema is something I rarely do on my adventures in Scotland, but this was the best idea I’ve had in a while. Campbeltown Picture House is the oldest continually operating cinema in Britain, dating back to 1913. The Glasgow School Art Nouveau building was restored in 2017as part of The Centenary Project, and what a crackin’ job they’ve done.
The interior boasts a mix of modern freshness with old-school character, complete with information boards about the cinema’s history. The wee café is brilliant too, serving local alcoholic beverages, flavoured hot chocolates and filled bagels. I loved escaping from the rain, and sinking into my seat in the small cinema screen with a mixed bag of fresh popcorn in hand.
- Cinema ticket prices start at £7 per adult and £5 per child
- Check out the full cinema listings
3. Davaar Island.
Davaar Island proudly poses on the watery horizon of Campbeltown Loch, and can be reached on foot when the tide permits. The starting point for the walk is a couple of miles out of the town, so I’d had a decent warm up before I even started on the pebbly causeway. The weather was the best it had been in days, and the summery smell of seaweed was fragrant in the air. Once on-shore, I negotiated the jaggy stones round to the island’s caves.
The island is most famous for the ‘Crucifixion Cave’ (sounds ghastly, doesn’t it?). The dank innards of the cave feature a painting of the crucifixion from 1887 by local artist Archibald MacKinnon. He was inspired by a dream, and was subsequently exiled from the town when the residents discovered he was responsible, after assuming the painting was a sign from God. Ooops! The painting, which has since been restored, is quite the haunting spectacle. I preferred life outside the cave, sitting looking out to sea, and then returning to the mainland ahead of the tide.
- I took about 3.5 hours to get to the island and back from the centre of town.
- You MUST check the times of the tide with Visit Scotland in Campbeltown before attempting the walk.
- For more information check out the Walk Highlands website.
4. Food for Thought Bar & Restaurant.
I must admit, I wasn’t dazzled by Campeltown’s dining options during the planning stages of my trip. Thankfully, I happened upon this wee gem. Not to be confused with the sister sandwich shop, Food for Thought is run by award-winning chef Billy Brodrick and his wife Gillian. Billy is a passionate chef who makes everything fresh and on-site, and the food is unpretentiously delicious as a result.
I had mussels to start, duck for my main, and the best sticky toffee pudding EVER for dessert. The food was amazing, and I had such a lovely chat with Gillian about her growing up in the area. They were awarded ‘Restaurant of the Year South West’ at the ‘Food Awards Scotland 2018’ – a very well deserved accolade. Food for Thought is the stand-out restauarant in Campbeltown, and a must when visiting the town.
- The restaurant doesn’t have a website, but you can visit the Facebook page or call them on 01586 553865
My visit to this quiet village was a last-minute improvisation when my trip to Ballycastle was cancelled for operational reasons. I was previously unaware of Carradale’s existence, but it seemed to be ticking a few boxes: accessible by bus in under 40-minutes from Campbeltown, harbour looking out to Arran, nice beach, and a pub. Despite the dreich conditions, I had a brilliant wee adventure to Carradale. Find out more in my blog post on Carradale.
Where to stay in Campbeltown.
When piecing together the puzzle that was my itinerary, I found the accommodation options in Campbeltown to be limited and overpriced. While I like to occasionally indulge in the finer things, I was ultimately searching for somewhere clean, comfy and cosy – and I found it! Braefoot Guesthouse is in an old manse, which dates back over 150 years. The B-listed building has lots of character and beautiful old features, including intricate cornices and tiled flooring.
Paul was a lovely, welcoming host and I enjoyed the cooked breakfast. After glamping on Iona and Gigha in the week before, a proper bed with an ensuite bathroom felt like a treat. Despite some negative reviews on TripAdvisor, I had no complaints about my stay. I do think there is room for improvement in the town’s overall accommodation options, however; a great opportunity for a new tourism venture.
- For more information and prices, check out Braefoot Guesthouse on Booking.com.
My adventure on the Glasgow to Campbeltown bus route was sponsored by Scottish Citylink. As always, all content, opinions & chaotic behaviour are my own.